Editor’s note: A big “thank you” to Denise who shared her trip to Arisaig Park with us. Coincidentally, she was there the same day we were at Cribbon’s Point, just around the corner from her. You can read more of Denise’s writings in her column for The Southender here.
My clearest memories of my days as a schoolgirl are of times spent outside the classroom, moreso than of times spent in it. I remember one special field trip, taken when I was in grade five, to Arisaig Provincial Park, about 30 kilometres north of Antigonish. The purpose of the trip was to get an up-close look at the fossil-rich sedentary rock formations. It felt like we had time-traveled back a few hundred million years to a magical place.
I visited the park in the early evening in late July, on a very hot day, two restless dogs in tow. We parked in a small parking lot in the shade of the mature Acadian forest that comprises the non-beach area of the park, and walked up a short boardwalk to an interpretive kiosk. There I found concise information on the history of the rock formations and a map of the trails through the woods. The dogs and I paused for a moment to admire the view of Arisaig’s beach and wharf; the water was beautifully calm.
We left the kiosk, ditched the leashes, and descended down a set of wooden steps into the park. The trails were wide and easy to navigate; the towering trees permitted rays of sunlight to dapple the mulch-covered paths. It was an easy downhill romp for the dogs and I, and after about five minutes we found ourselves on a trail with glimpses through the trees of the waters of the Northumberland Strait. There we saw signs warning of “actively eroding cliffs,” evidence of the ocean’s wrath. We didn’t venture too close to the edge at these points.
After about 15 minutes of walking, we arrived at a spot overlooking a rocky beach. We were able to descend about 20 feet to the beach without too much difficulty, over shale and soil, but it could be difficult to navigate for those with even slight mobility issues. It might also be difficult for very small children. There was a more accessible network of stairs in the park a few years back, but a December storm surge did quite a bit of damage, and the stairs and boardwalks are only now being reconstructed.
Once on the beach, we walked a further five minutes and came upon the Arisaig Falls. What an enchanting spot! The dogs had a long drink from the pools formed from fresh water cascading down the rocks. The water was crisp and cool, perfect for a foot soak after a day of 30-degree heat. The water flows across a gravel beach, gently out into the Strait. It’s a perfect spot for a dip in the ocean, which must have been close to 20 degrees that day, a welcome respite from the heat of the afternoon.
We walked for a bit up the beach, admiring the rock formations. I looked for fossils, but admit I don’t quite know what I’m looking for! I was happy to admire the unusual rock formations from a slight distance, and bask in the early-evening glow of a setting summer sun. We saw a few other people, and one other dog. It’s a great spot if you seek peace and tranquility.
We returned to the car the way we came. It’s a little harder work as the walk back is mostly uphill. If you want a flat walk to the falls, you can park at the public beach by the wharf; it’s a 15-minute trek that way. I was happy we chose the route through the park, as I got to experience my two favourite things, trees and the beach. After all these years, it’s still a magical place.
Arisaig Provincial Picnic Park is open during daylight hours. It is 27 kilometres north of Antigonish, on route 245, or about 30 kilometres from the turnoff on route 104 at Sutherlands River.